I am currently in Chicago for training for my position with the International Affiliate of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Every time I visit the U.S. I am always surprised by the number of advertisements for medications on television. It seems that every single little ailment should be treated with some sort of pill.
And what does the diet have to do with this? Well, the diet can be one of the most important preventative actions one can take. Hippocrates an ancient Greek physician had said let food be thy medicine and medicine is thy food. And more and more evidence is showing that what Hippocrates had said thousands of years ago is true today more then ever.
The Mediterranean diet in particular has been associated with prevention and protection of several chronic diseases. Apart from the much publicized study that showed that a Mediterranean diet can protect the heart. There are hundreds of other studies that show the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. I noticed a recent Greek pilot study published in the Journal Primary Health Care Research & Development that found that an intervention of stress management techniques and Mediterranean diet education appears to be beneficial for reduction of blood pressure. They say that this intervention could possibly used as early treatment for moderately high blood pressure. Several studies have confirmed that a Mediterranean diet can really prevent and even prolong the need for medication.
Official guidelines always recommend lifestyle changes as the first line of treatment for individuals with borderline levels of cholesterol or blood pressure. But there are several issues that come up: The diet often recommended is a severely low-fat diet and let’s face it: a difficult-to-follow diet. There is a lot of evidence out there that shows that a tasty, moderate fat, Mediterranean style diet can have the same (or even better) effect then a low fat diet.
Another issue that comes up is that lifestyle changes are not stressed enough. Many doctors will give generic advice such as eat less fat, don’t eat meat, eat a lot of vegetables etc. This is not very helpful or inspiring. Many people are almost given the impression that they will need medications no matter what and that taking medications is easier and they can still have an unhealthy diet and the drugs will do all the work for them.
Of course that is not the case, we know that taking medications is not without consequences. There are several side effects and their long-term use can affect the liver, kidneys, heart and other systems depending on the drug.
So, medications are not the best solution nor should they be the first solution. Following the Mediterranean diet is truly a real way of eating that tastes good, protects and can even prolong the need for medications.